From Historian to Dissident
Bruce N. Westergren, editor
The Land of Zion
[p.85]There was much trouble and unbelief among those who call themselves disciples of Christ: Some apostatized, and became enemies to the cause of God, and percecuted the saints.
Now after the elders that were commanded to go to Missouri had arrived, they held a conference upon that land according to Revelation given in a preceeding commandment.1
And thus they rejoiced together upon the land of Zion And offered their Sacraments and oblations unto the Lord, for his mercy and goodness which endureth for ever.
When they had held their sacrament meetings, and the laying of the foundation of the City, and cornerstone of the Temple, the Lord gave commandments to return [to Kirtland].2
I hereby give a copy of the proceedings of the laying of the first logs of the City of Zion. As written by Oliver Cowdery.3 “After many struggles and afflictions, being persecuted by our enemies, we received inteligence by letter from our brethren, who were at the East. That br[others] Joseph and Sidney, [p.86]and many others elders, were commanded to take their journey to this land, the Land of Missouri. Which was promised unto us should be the land of the inheritance of the Saints, and the place of the gathering in these last days. Which inteligenc cheered our hearts, and caused us to rejoice exceedingly. And by the special direction protection of the Lord, br Joseph Smith Jr. and Sidney Rigdon, in company with eight other elders, with the church from Colesville New York, consisting of about sixty souls, arivd in the month of July and by Revelation the place was made known where the Temple shall stand, and the City should commence. And by commandment twelve of us assembled ourselves together Viz. Elder Joseph Smith Jr. the Seer, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, Newel Knight,4 William W. Phelps,5 and Ezra Booth who denied the faith.
On the second day of August 1831, Brother Sidny Rigdon stood up and asked saying: Do you receive this land for the land of your inheritance with thankful hearts from the Lord? answer from all we do, Do you pledge yourselves to keep the laws of God on this land, which you have never have kept in your own land? We do. Do you pledge yourselves to see that others of your brethren, who shall come hither do keep the laws of God? We do. After prayer he arose and said, I now pronounce this land consecrated and dedicated to the Lord for a possession and inheritance for the Saints, (in the name of Jesus Christ having authority from him.) And for all the faithful Servants of the Lord to the rimotest ages of time Aamen.
The day following eight Elders viz. Joseph Smith Jr., Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, Peter Whitmer Jr., Frederick G. Williams,6 Wm. W. Phelps, Martin Harris, and Joseph Coe.7 assembled together where the temple is to be erected. Sidney Rigdon dedicated the ground where the city is to Stand: and Joseph Smith Jr. laid a stone at the North east corner of the [p.87]contemplated Temple in the name of the Lord Jesus of Nazareth. After all present had rendered thanks to the great ruler of the universe. Sidney Rigdon pronounced this Spot of ground wholy dedicated unto the Lord forever: Amen.8
Some of the Elders who travelled to the land of Missouri and preached by the way tarried here in this land, among whom is the Bishop E[dward] Partridge[,] Isaac Morley[,] and John Corrill. Some were sick on their way to this land but all were restored to health[.] among those who were sick was John Murdock Parley P. Pratt and Thomas B. Marsh—They all tarried until after they attended a conference in this land. They have since all gone to preach the gospel and call sinners to repentance.
There were some churches built by the way as they journeyed to this land (Mo.) and the people were warned of the danger they were in, if they did not repent.
And now when the Elders had returned to their homes in Ohio,9 the churches needed much exortation in the absence of the Elders[.] many apostitized: but many have returned again to from the fold from whence they have strayed—And many mighty miracles were wrought by the Elders—one in particular which I shall here notice—which was wrought by Elders Emer10 Harris Joseph Bracke[r]berry11 and Wheeler Baldwin.12 [This] Is [an incident regarding] an infirmity in an old lady who had been helpless for the space of eight years confined to her bed. she did not belong to this church but sent her request to the Elders who immediately attended to her call, and after their arrival praid [prayed] for her and laid their hands on her, and she was immediately made whole and magnified and praised God. and is now enjoying perfect health[.]
And thus the churches again prospered and the work of the Lord spread[.]
[p.88]Shortly after Joseph Smith Jr[,] Oliver Cowdery[,] and Sidney Rigdon Returned [to Ohio] Sidney wrote a discription and an epistle according to commandment.13 And Oliver Cowdery and Newel K. Whitney14—were commanded to go and visit the churches speedily—as you will see by reading the Revelation given August thirty at Kirtland15— The following is a copy of the Epistle written by S. Rigdons own hand.
I sidney a servant of Jesus Christ by the will of God the Father and through the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ unto the Saints who are scattered abroad in the last days, may grace [p. 34] mer[c]y and peace, rest upon you from God the father and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who is greatly to be feared, among his saints and to be had in reverance of all them who obey him.
It has pleased God even the Father to make known unto us m these last days, the good pleasure of his will concerning his Saints; and to make known unto us, the things which he has decreed upon the nations even wasting and destruction until they are utterly destroyed, and the earth made desolate by reason of the wickedness of its inhabitants according as he has made known in times past by prophits and apostles, that such calamities should befall the inhabitants of the earth in the last days, unless they should repent and turn to the living God. And as the time is now near at hand, for the accomplishment of his purposes and the fulfilment of his prophesies, which have been spoken by all the holy prophets, ever since the world began, he has sent and signified, unto us by the mouths of his holy prophets, that. he has raised up in these last days—the speedy accomplishment of his
accomplish ment purposes which shall be accomplished, on the heads of the rebellious of this generation—among whom he has been pleased in much mercy and goodness, to send forth the fulness of his gospel in order that [p.89]they might repent and turn to the living God, and be made partakers of his Holy Spirit[.]
But by reason of their wickedness and rebellion against him and wicked and unbelieving hearts the Lord withdrew his spirit from them, and gives them up to work all uncleanness with greediness, and to bring swift destruction on themselves—and through their wickedness to hasten the day of their calamity, that they may be left without excuse in the day of vengeance.
But it has pleased our heavenly Father to make known some better things, concerning his Saints and those who serve him in f[e]ar and rejoice in meekness, before him, even things which pertain to life everlasting, for godliness has the life promise of the life, that now is, and that which is to come; Even so it has pleased our heavenly Father to make provisions for his saints in these last days of tribulation that they through faith and patience, and by continuing in well doing may preserve their lives; and attain unto rest and endless felicity—but by no other means, than that of a strict observance of his commandments and teachings in all things as there is and can be no ruler nor lawgiver in the Kingdom of God save it be God our Saviour himself—and before him he requires that all his saints & those who have named the name of Jesus, should be carful to depart from iniquity—and serve him with fe[a]r and rejoicing and trembling least he be angry and they perish from their way.
According to the prediction of the ancient profits that the Lord would send his messengers in the last days, and gather his elect. (which is the elect according to the covenant, viz. those who like Abraham are faithful to God and the word of his Grace.) from the four winds even from one end of the earth to the other as testified of by the Savior himself—so in these last days he has commenced to gather together, into a place [p.90]provided before of God and had in reserve in days of old, being kept by the power and providence of of God, for this purpose and which he now holds in his own hands, that they through faith, and patience may inherit the blessings promises—A land which God by his own commandment has consecrated to him self where he has said, that his laws shall be kept, and where his saints can dwell in safety, through their perseverance in well doing and their unfeigned repentance of all their sins, our heavenly Father has provided this land himself because it was the one which was [best] adapted, for his children, where Jew and Gentile might dwell together: for God has the same respect to all those who call upon him in truth and righteousness whether they be Jew or Gentile; for there is no respect of persons with him.
This land being situated in the center of the continent on which we dwell with an exceeding fertile soil and ready cleared for the hand of the cultivator bespeaks the goodness of our God, in providing so goodly a heritage, and its climate suited [to] persons from every quarter of this continent. wither East West North or South yea I think I may say, for all constitutions from every part of the world and its productions nearly all varieties of both grain and vegitables which are common in this country together with all means, [for] clothing: in addition to this it abounds with fountains of pure water[,] the soil climate and surface all adapted to health[.] indeed I may say that the whole properties of the country invite the Saints to come and partake their blessings[.] but what more need I say about a country. which our Heavenly Father holds in his own hands[,] for if it were unhealthy he could make it healthy and if barren he could make it fruitful. Such is the land which God has provided for us, in these last days for an inheritance, and truly it is a goodly land, and none other as well suited for all the [p.91]saints as this and all those who have faith and confidence in God who has ever seen this land will bear the same testimony. In order that you may understand the will of God respecting this land and the way and means of possessing it, I can only refer you to commandments which the Lord has delivered by the mouth of his Prophet which will be read, to you, by our brethren Oliver Cowdry and Newel K. Whitney whom the Lord has appointed, to visit the churches and obtain means for purchasing this land of our inheritance that we may escape in the day of tribulation which is coming on the earth. I conclude by exhorting you to hear the voice of the Lord your God, who is speaking to you in much mercy and who is sending forth, his word and his revelation in these last days, in order that we may escape impending vengeance; and the Judgements which await this generation, and which will speedily overtake them—Brethren pray for me, that I may be counted worthy to obtain an inheritance in the land of Zion and to over come, the World through faith, and dwell with the sanctified, forever, and ever Amen.
Written at Kirtland Ohio Aug. 31, 1831.
4. Newel Knight, a son of Joseph Knight and Polly Peck, was [p.92]born on September 13, 1800, in Marlborough, Windham County, Vermont. He moved with his family to Bainbridge, New York, about 1809 and on to Colesville, New York, in 1811. He married Sally Coburn on June 7, 1825; they became the parents of three children.
Knight was baptized in May 1830 by David Whitmer and ordained a priest on September 26. In May 1831 Knight took his family and moved to Thompson, Ohio. He was ordained an elder shortly afterwards. Knight was responsible for leading the Colesville, New York, Branch to Jackson County, Missouri, to settle. The move took two months, lasting from June through July 1831. Sometime before July 3, Knight was ordained a high priest. After being ejected from Jackson County late in 1833, the Knights relocated in Clay County. Knight was appointed a member of the Clay County high council on July 7, 1834.
Sally, Newel’s wife of nine years, died on September 15, 1834. Following her death, Knight returned to Kirtland, Ohio, arriving in the spring of 1835. On November 24 he married Lydia Goldthwaite, and they became the parents of seven children. While in Kirtland Knight participated in the dedication of the temple in March 1836. On April 7 the Knights left again for Missouri, arriving on May 6 in Clay County. Knight was subsequently called as a member of the high council in Far West.
Following the forced exodus of the church from Missouri in 1839, the Knights settled in Nauvoo, Illinois. Here Knight was called to be a member of the stake high council, serving in this capacity until 1845. He received his endowment in the Nauvoo temple on December 13, 1845.
Knight and his family left Nauvoo with the rest of the church under Brigham Young’s direction in 1846. He died on January 11, 1847, in Knox County, Nebraska (Cook, Revelations, 78-79, 139; LDSBE, 2:773-75).
5. William W. Phelps was born on February 17, 1792, in Hanover, Morris County, New Jersey, the son of Enon Phelps and Mehitabel Goldsmith. In 1800 the family moved to Homer, [p.93]New York. Phelps married Sally Waterman on April 28, 1815; they became the parents of ten children. During this period, Phelps worked as the editor of the Western Courier. He and his family moved to Trumansburg, New York, in 1823, where he both edited and published a newspaper called Lake Light. By 1828 the family found themselves in Canandaigua, New York, and Phelps began publishing the anti-Masonic newspaper, the Ontario Phoenix.
Phelps’s introduction to the LDS church came through the purchase of a copy of the Book of Mormon from Parley P. Pratt in 1830. He met Joseph Smith on December 21, 1830, and was baptized in 1831. Phelps and his family moved to Kirtland, Ohio, in June. From 1831 through 1838 Phelps served prominently in the church. In June 1831 he was called to serve with Oliver Cowdery in printing church literature and traveled to Jackson County, Missouri, that same summer. In August he was directed to settle in Missouri with his family. While in Jackson County Phelps served as editor for the Evening and Morning Star. He was also printer for the 1833 Book of Commandments. Following the expulsion of the Saints from the county in late 1833, Phelps moved his family into Clay County. On July 8, 1834, Phelps was appointed a counselor to David Whitmer in the presidency of the church over “Zion” (Missouri).
On April 25, 1835, Phelps left Clay County for Kirtland, arriving on May 16. While there he assisted in compiling the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants and in compiling and printing the first church hymnbook in 1836. He also participated in the dedication ceremonies of the Kirtland temple, writing the keynote hymn, “The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning,” which is found in current LDS hymnals. He left for Missouri again on April 9.
During 1836-37, with John Whitmer, Phelps began supervising the affairs of the church in Missouri independently of the high council. Their actions created confusion, and they were both excommunicated on March 10, 1838. Following his excommunication, Phelps moved to Dayton, Ohio. Here he con-[p.94]tacted Orson Hyde and John E. Page in June 1840 and was accepted back into the church the next month. He and his family moved to Kirtland again early in 1841 where he worked to strengthen members who had been unable to emigrate with the main body of the Saints three years earlier. Following a brief preaching mission to Ohio and the eastern states in May 1841, Phelps moved his family to Nauvoo, Illinois. He was elected mayor’s clerk and fire warden on February 11, 1843. He assisted the prophet as clerk, scribe, and confidant from 1841 through 1844.
On December 9, 1843, Phelps received his endowment in the Nauvoo temple; on February 2, 1846, he was sealed to Laura Stowell and Elizabeth Dunn. Phelps and his family left Nauvoo for the West with the main body of the church in 1846. On March 31, 1847, he was called to travel east and purchase a press and type. The transaction was completed in Boston the following August. Phelps returned to Winter Quarters on November 12, 1847. He was excommunicated again on December 9 but rebaptized two days later.
The Phelps family arrived in Salt Lake City in 1849. William constructed an adobe house in the Old Fort where the family resided until his death. Phelps served in the Utah territorial legislative assembly from 1841 through 1857 and was elected Speaker of the House in 1851. That same year he also became a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Deseret and published the Deseret Almanac. On October 7, 1851, he was admitted to the Utah bar. He wrote the lyrics to a number of other popular LDS hymns such as “Praise to the Man.” He died on March 6, 1872, in Salt Lake City (Cook, Revlations, 87-88, 141; LDSBE 3:692-97).
6. Frederick G. Williams, son of William and Ruth Granger Williams, was born October 28, 1787, at Suffield, Hartford County, Connecticut, and moved with his family to Cleveland, Ohio, about 1799. In his late youth he found employment as a pilot on Lake Erie transporting goods and passengers between [p.94]Buffalo and Detroit. Late in 1815 he married Rebecca Swain; they became the parents of four children. In 1816 the young family moved to Warrensville, Ohio, where Williams engaged in farming. By 1830 he had completed studies to become a doctor and had moved into the Kirtland area to set up his practice.
Williams was baptized into the LDS church and ordained an elder that November and accompanied the Missouri-bound missionaries to Jackson County shortly afterwards. Eight months later, in August 1831, he met Joseph Smith for the first time. Williams returned to Kirtland around September and was ordained a high priest on October 25. The following July he began serving as a scribe for Smith. He was ordained a counselor in the First Presidency on March 18, 1833.
Williams engaged in other church-related activities such as the United and Literary firms and Zion’s Camp. In May 1835 he was appointed editor of a church-oriented newspaper, the Northern Times. He also worked on the Kirtland temple and participated in its dedication in 1836. In 1837 he became a stockholder in the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Corporation. When the bank failed, misconduct charges were brought against a number of people, including Williams. No decision was made in his case, though it strained his relationship with Smith, the bank’s founder.
Williams and his family moved to Far West, Missouri, in 1837. That November he was dropped from the First Presidency and subsequently excommunicated. He was rebaptized about July 1838 and expelled from Missouri with the rest of the Saints in 1839. He was excommunicated again on March 17, 1839. The family followed the church to Quincy, Illinois, later that year, and Williams was again reinstated in the church on April 8, 1840. He died in Quincy on October 10, 1842. He was sealed to his wife Rebecca posthumously in the Nauvoo temple on February 7, 1846 (Cook Revelations, 104-105, 144; LDSBE, 1:51-52).
7. Joseph Coe was born in 1785 in New Jersey. Sometime [p.96]before June 1831 he was baptized into the LDS church and ordained an elder. Later that month he traveled to Missouri with Joseph Smith and others. Coe returned on September 4; on September 22 he moved his family to Mentor, Ohio. From October 12-December 28 he served a mission to New York with Ezra Thayer.
On October 1, 1832, Coe was ordained a high priest by Joseph Smith; on March 18, 1833, he was ordained and set apart as an agent to purchase property for the church. On February 17, 1834, he was called to serve as a member of the Kirtland high council. Coe participated in the construction and dedication of the Kirtland temple. He assisted in laying the foundation stones on July 23, 1833, and on March 8, 1835, received a blessing for his efforts.
Coe was rejected from the Kirtland high council on September 3, 1837, and was completely disaffected by December. He was excommunicated in December 1838. The census records list him as a farmer residing in Kirtland in 1850, but further details of his life, including his death date, are not known (Cook, Revelations, 86-87, 141).
10. Emer Harris was born on May 29, 1781, in Cambridge, Washington County, New York. On July 22, 1802, he married Roxana Peas; they had six children. He married Deborah Lott on January 16, 1819; they had four children. He married Parna Chapel on March 29, 1826; they also had four children. It is not known why Harris married so many times within such a short period. It could be, as was typical of the time, that his wives died during or shortly after childbirth.
By 1820 the family had moved to Luzerne County, Pennsylvania; they were baptized into the Mormon church here on February 10, 1831. Later that year the Harrises moved to [p.97]Kirtland, Ohio. Sometime before June Harris was ordained an elder. On October 25, 1831, he was ordained a high priest. He left on a short mission with Simeon Carter on January 25, 1832; later that year he fulfilled a mission to Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, with Martin Harris.
About December 1833 Harris moved his family to Huron County, Ohio. In 1838 he was occupied largely in constructing the Kirtland temple. In the spring of 1836 he moved his family to a farm located three miles from Kirtland. The family moved to Missouri on September 5, 1838, and arrived at Far West, Missouri, about October 12. Following the expulsion of the Mormons from Missouri the following winter, the family moved to Adams County, Illinois, about December 22. Harris purchased property about three miles northeast of Nauvoo in 1840; he was a carpenter by trade. He also served in the Nauvoo Legion.
Emer took additional wives in accordance with the law of plural marriage while living in Nauvoo. On January 11, 1846, he married Polly Chamberlain; he received his endowment in the Nauvoo temple on January 30, 1846.
In 1850 the family moved to Utah and ultimately settled in Provo. On September 10, 1850, Emer married a third wife, Martha Allen. Harris was ordained a patriarch on October 8, 1853; on September 5, 1858, he was called to preside over the high priests in Provo.
Harris died on November 28, 1869, in Logan, Cache County, Utah (Cook, Revelations, 154-55, 310).
11. Joseph Brackenberry was born on January 18, 1788, in Lincolnshire, England, and migrated to the United States with his family while still a child. He was baptized on April 10, 1831, by John Corrill and Solomon Hancock, and ordained an elder the next day; on October 25, 1831, he was ordained a high priest by Oliver Cowdery. Late that year he left on a mission to the Eastern States. He died on January 7, 1832, while still in the mission field, at Pomfret, Chautauqua County, New York. His death was attributed to poison administered to him by local [p.98]anti-Mormons (LDSBE, 2:597).
12. Wheeler Baldwin was born in March 1793, in Albany County, New York. By 1830 he had moved to Strongsville, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. He married a woman named Mary apparently while residing in Ohio. He was baptized into the Mormon church on January 8, 1831, and ordained an elder sometime before June. Baldwin was ordained to the High Priesthood on June 3, 1831, by Lyman Wight. He was appointed to travel to Missouri later that month but apparently did not go. He finally moved to Jackson County, Missouri, sometime before October 5, 1832; by 1836 Wheeler had settled his family in Caldwell County. Following the expulsion of the Mormons from the state in 1838-39, the Baldwins settled in Lee County, Iowa.
On March 6, 1840, the Iowa high council appointed Baldwin, Lyman Wight, and Abraham O. Smoot to travel and obtain affidavits and other documents to be forwarded to Washington, D.C., as part of the church’s attempt to have its petitions for redress against Missouri heard in Congress.
Baldwin received his endowment in the Nauvoo temple on January 7, 1846; however, he and his family did not move West with the rest of the Saints. Several years later, around 1852, Baldwin joined Alpheus Cutler’s splinter group, The Church of Jesus Christ, in Mills County, Iowa. The Baldwins moved with the Cutlerites to Manti, Fremont County, Iowa, in 1854. In March 1863 Wheeler joined the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and presided over the branches of that church in the Iowa counties of Mills, Fremont, Taylor, and Page.
Wheeler Baldwin died on May 11, 1887, near Stewartsville, Missouri (Cook, Revelations, 72, 138; for information on the Cutlerite movement, see Steven L. Shields, Divergent Paths of the Restoration, 4th rev. ed. [Los Angeles, CA: Restoration Research, 1990], 60-65).
[p.99]14. Newel Kimball Whitney, son of Samuel Whitney and Susanna Kimball, was born on February 5, 1795, in Marlborough, Windham County, Vermont. In 1817 he moved to Painesville, Ohio, where he found employment with A. Sidney Gilbert, a local merchant. He later became Gilbert’s business partner when the store moved to Kirtland.
On October 20, 1822, Whitney married Elizabeth Ann Smith. They had eleven children. Sometime before 1830 he joined the Campbellite movement; Sidney Rigdon was the congregation’s minister. Whitney was baptized into the Mormon church in November 1830.
Whitney fulfilled a number of assignments for the church. He was ordained a bishop’s agent for the Kirtland area on September 1, 1831. He was called to be the bishop of the Kirtland branch and of all the branches east of the Mississippi River on December 3, 1831. He joined the United Firm, a part of the United Order in Kirtland, on March 12, 1832. He also served on several proselyting missions. In addition, he attended the School of the Prophets in Kirtland beginning in 1833 and also helped build the Kirtland temple.
In 1838 Whitney moved his family to the Mormon settlements in Missouri. The Whitneys got as far as St. Louis when they heard about the extermination order issued by Missouri governor Lilburn W. Boggs and relocated temporarily in Carrollton, Illinois; in 1839 the family moved to Nauvoo.
Whitney served in both church and civil offices while in Illinois. He was called as bishop of the Nauvoo Middle Ward on October 6, 1839. He was elected as a city alderman on February 1, 1841. He received his endowment on May 4, 1842, participating in the first group to receive their temple ordinances. He became a member of the Council of Fifty on March 11, 1844.
Newel also participated in plural marriage. He married Emeline Belos Woodward on February 24, 1845; they became the parents of two children. He married Elizabeth Ann, Olive Maria Bishop, Anna Houston, Elizabeth Mahala Moore, Elizabeth Almira Pond, and Abigail Augusta Pond on January 7, 1846. On [p.100]January 26 that year he married Henrietta Keys.
The Whitney family left Nauvoo for the Salt Lake Valley in 1846. After residing in Winter Quarters for some time, they finally arrived in Utah on October 8, 1848. Newel was elected a justice of the peace on March 12, 1849, and shortly afterwards was called as bishop of the Salt Lake City 18th Ward. He died September 23, 1850, in Salt Lake City (Cook, Revelations, 102-103; LDSBE 1:222-27).